The only division of Detroit city government that runs with a ruthless precision is the Parking Violations Bureau. There they are: prowling from 8 am to 10 pm in their all electric vehicles, dishing out violations like take-a-number tabs at the local meat counter.
Broken meter? Not their problem. The hapless motorist is expected to deposit coins in the next working meter, usually the next block over. If that too is broken? Go to the next one the next block over. How far does one need to journey to go to find a working meter? As far as it takes.
That’s not safe. There are no cops downtown.
Then download the app, parking bureau bosses say. But we’re not all Venezuelans. Not everybody is issued a government-funded iPhone.
I recently got a $45 ticket. The crime? Parking within “15 feet from an unmarked crosswalk.” But how do you know you’re 15 feet away from a crosswalk if the crosswalk is not marked, I wonder? The meter maid noted that I was “approximately 10 feet away.”
I went to fight this outrage at Parking Court, a spiritless municipal cement block located on the edge of Corktown. Not surprisingly, the parking meters in front of Parking Court were broken. I’ve been meaning to check those bids and contracts.
Inside, the floor needed mopping. The clerk behind the Covid plexiglass took my name and pulled up a photograph of my alleged violation on the computer. A photograph! We can’t catch murderers in Detroit, but we have photographic evidence of alleged parking capers.
The clerk, judging by the photographic evidence, estimated I was 17 feet away from the invisible crosswalk. At worst, by my calculation, I was 14 feet and 7 inches away – a five-inch violation. That’s $9 an inch. Not even Ron Jeremy got paid $9 an inch.
The clerk took my information and told me to expect a phone call informing me of my court date.
The courtroom was the next door down. It was empty, except for the judge who was working on her nails. I walked in hoping to expedite the process. “I didn’t waive you in,” snapped the judge, who appeared bleary-eyed from the lack of light and stimulation.
“Your honor,” I pleaded. “Five inches. I ask for leniency. I didn’t bring a tape measure after all.”
“You’ll be notified of your hearing date,” the judge said looking up. “Good day.” Then she returned to her nails.
I took the bus for the next few days. My wife was using my car, since the front seat of her new car wouldn’t retract. It needed new parts, but the parts wouldn’t be available since the UAW was on strike.
I hoped the auto workers get everything they were asking for. You can bet the auto executives were calculating how to move everything that’s left in Detroit down to Mexico in the next five years.
The SMART buses run real nice since the Mayor Mike Duggan and his machine of midnight bandits figured out how to fund regional transportation by taxing my house while simultaneously cutting the city transportation budget and paying themselves big salaries for their cleverness.
We’re broke and going in reverse. The wheels are falling off Motown. All I know is the next car I’m going to buy is a Ford. That’s right: I’m gonna buy me a car I can afford.